Entrepreneurial (and Non-Exploitative) Ecotourism

Santhosh pointed out the complexities of slum tourism, and ecotourism itself is a contested issue. Ecotourism extends past slum areas, and into any area where ecological or environmental factors are at play. Ecosphere is an organization that approaches this, according to this article in Express Travel World, through “the triple bottom-line of economic empowerment, conservation and development in the Spiti valley,” a region in Himachal Pradesh.

The article details how Ecosphere came about and their unconventional approach of conducting an analysis of tourists to understand their interests, and then working with the community to train them as travel professionals and to learn how to display their local and cultural assets.

Ecosphere endeavours to make tourism profitable for the community, its culture and ecology. The objective of the initiative is to develop unique, authentic and reliable tourism products and activities, link them to community livelihoods and conservation of culture and nature. This not only provides the community with a sustainable source of income but also serves as an incentive to conserve their unique natural and cultural heritage and environment.

Perhaps this model (and no doubt others must exist) for tourism can be applied to other places in India as well. These ventures can point the way to finding a balance between tourism, preserving local cultures, and using the profit in non-exploitative manner.

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Midday Newsfeed

Some newsworthy headlines of interest:

  • Entrepreneurship: Himachal Pradesh to adopt an open door policy to encourage entrepreneurs to work within the state. In a similar effort to attract more high tech companies, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a plan to create Information Technology Investment Regions (ITIRs).
  • Women’s Rights and Security: The Indian Border Security Force will begin enlisting the help of women to patrol the country’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh — initial duties will include frisking and the monitoring of drug and human trafficking.
  • Water resources: Scientists have called for better monitoring of the Himalayan water sources — or natural water towers — that provide H2O to millions of people in Asia. Locally in Tamil Nadu, the controversy over the Hogenakkal project has heated up as celebrities have started a fast in protest. The local government continues to emphasize that this project is solely focused on the provision of drinking water. Protestors have also sought the help of PM Singh himself to intervene.
  • Agriculture: Haryana Agriculture Marketing Board will setup mandi level committees to help streamline procurement. However, at a national level, an ongoing tussle amongst ministries over fertilizer may substantially hamper the ability for India to increase output overall.
  • Telecom regulation and automation: A new allocation of a telecom spectrum has begun, with Shyam-Sistem the first awarded. In other news, the government of Bihar has chosen to embrace technology through the automation of their transportation department.
  • Government compensation: An effort to have a new panel for pay of MPs has been shot down.

Midday Newsfeed

  • Renewable Energy: The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India has announced a demonstration programme to support mega watt size grid interactive solar power generation projects, up to a maximum capacity of 50 MW, in the country. Similar efforts have been pushed by Himachal Pradesh’s CM, in an effort for more hydel power Public-Private Parnterships with entrepreneurs.
  • Insurance: A cashless health insurance program has been unveiled to target those under the poverty line. In a related story, Haryana’s government plans to invest 100RS per month per Anganwari worker for insurance through Life Insurance Corporation of India.
  • Microfinance: Lok Capital LLC, an India focused microfinance venture capital fund, has raised its fund size by about 80 per cent to $22 million from $14.5 million. Also, two Indian MFIs have received funding from Oikocredit, a Dutch cooperative fund.
  • Food supply and prices: UN report claims that Asia’s poorest being harmed by biofuels with regard to rising food prices. In a related news story, the World Bank has come out to say that the era of cheap food may be over. Bringing this problem home, one final story brings to light the likelihood of a food shortage in India. (this article was in the yesterday’s Evening Edition).
  • Human interest/child marriage: 13 year old girl stands up against child marriage.

Evening Edition

Some headlines to start your evening off right:

  • The government of Himachal Pradesh announced at a three-day international conference this weekend that they are drafting a master plan for the development of backpack tourism in the state through strategic public private partnerships (PPPs).  The government ensured that the plan will “optimise the use of natural resources while ensuring ecological safeguards.”
  • In more off-the-beaten track news, West Bengal currently tops the animal cruelty list in India.  In the past three years alone, reports iGovernment, approximately 40,000 animals have faced cruelty in the state of West Bengal. 
  • Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Prices today in order to address the issue of soaring prices.  The import duty on soybean oil is expected to be cut in order to encourage imports.  India is also expected to stop the import of wheat for this year.
  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in collaboration with the corporate sector of Tamil Nadu, has launched long-term rehabilitation mechanisms for Tsunami victims in the state.  Services include healthcare centers, medical camps for eyes and dental health, clean water supply. 
  • The Government of India has allocated Rs. 600 crore for green energy research, design, and development (RD&D).   New schemes include awareness campaigns, incentive-based programs, and development of solar cities and renewable energy technologies for the Eleventh Five Year Plan period. 
  • Currently, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is operational in 330 districts in the country.  As of April 1st, the scheme will expand to 604 districts of the country.  Rural Development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has also requested that zero balance accounts be created for NREGA workers for the purposes of transparency and efficiency in the deposit process.